The Power of Peer Support for Your Providers and Staff

Hero blog peer coaching
Cross Country Healthcare
November 18, 2021 01:31 AM (GMT-05:00)

How Hospital Leaders Can Help Caregivers Cope with COVID Stress

Perhaps no one can understand a caregiver’s experience during COVID quite like another caregiver. That’s why an internal coaching program may be an effective solution for hospital leaders to help providers and staff cope with pandemic stress. Physicians, nurses, advanced practice providers, allied healthcare professionals and other caregivers may find solace in speaking with colleagues in parallel roles who have endured similar experiences.

Although there is no substitute for outside help from trained behavioral healthcare professionals, solidarity is paramount during this time, and peer support can offer caregivers the peace of mind of knowing they are not alone. There is great value in opening lines of communication to support wellbeing and resilience and build cohesion among teammates.

Peer Coaching Programs Show Promise

As a long-term support solution, peer coaching programs designed to combat COVID stress have proven helpful for many providers. Wu et al. describe the success of a Canadian peer responder program which has since been implemented in several hospitals in the U.S. The program has helped providers who have undergone stressful clinical events like losing patients to COVID. Further, Rosen et al. observed that a program designed to support colleagues’ wellness and resilience during the pandemic helped mitigate mental health threats for healthcare workers. Employees reported decreased loneliness, improved relationships among colleagues, and increased feelings of being supported by their organization.

Tips for Implementing a Coaching Program

To customize an internal coaching program for their facility, leaders can draw inspiration from the programs cited above, which include approaches like:

  • Training for peer coaches in psychological first aid, crisis response, and other principles
  • Opportunities for emotional expression and decompression
  • Direct education in skills for stress reduction and stress adaptation
  • Wellness practices to stave off burnout
  • Active monitoring to spot early signs of heightened stress among teams
  • Interaction between leadership and staff to enhance communication of needs
  • Personalized feedback on coping and stress
  • Redirection to additional help when needed
  • Opportunities to provide input on the program

While peer coaching is by no means a panacea for pandemic stress, it can be a uniquely helpful tool. Peer coaching can build partnerships, enhance emotional intelligence, improve resiliency, and may even motivate providers to stay with their organizations (AMA).

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